Damatta Bio Farmer (Cezar Villela), Brazil
A Cover Crop/ Soil Respiration Study in Brazil: Validating gains in soil biology with Solvita CO2 – results after 1 growing season. Brazilian Oxisols are high in clay with low natural fertility. This poses a challenge for growers. To test the potential for soil improvement various grasses and legumes were grown for an entire season at the Agronomy School plots (State Mato Grosso do Sul). The initial soil had low soil CO2 respiration (8 mg/kg – see photo). Read more
Ron Snyder, Wood County, OH
“Getting a 4 or 5 on a Solvita test is the key indicator where I will be comfortable telling people that they can start cutting back.”
Ron worked with Abby Wensink of the Wood County Soil and Water Conservation District to pull some samples and get his Solvita respiration test results. Armed with his data including soil temperature and growing season days, he consulted the Solvita CO2 Calculator in order to learn how much potential mineralizeable nitrogen his soil was capable of producing.
Ron learned that his improved soils and soil biology could produce an estimated 102 lbs of nitrogen a year. He calculated this represents a savings of over $49 per acre in nitrogen alone. Read more
Kay McGirt, Robeson County, NC
In 2013, Kay McGirt realized that excessive moisture was going to be a problem. Torrential spring rains allowed him to plant only 15% of his intended double-cropped soybean acres. He decided that it was time to change the way he was managing his soils.
“Solvita gave me a way to measure improvements in my field”, says Kay. He has seen reductions in fuel and labor costs when moving to no-till and adding cover crops. He was pleasantly surprised that his cover crop addition and resulting Solvita soil test indicated he could reduce the amount of Nitrogen he applies to his field by 15 gallons an acre (approximately 45 lbs N/acre or $21.00/acre savings). Read more
Bruce Bacon (1940-2017), Ramsey, MN
“Solvita shows that not only is my soil respiration really high,
I have exceeded the level in local native prairie soil.”
Bruce has operated “Garden Farme” since 1970 and practices permaculture on deep beds. His farm has become a magnet for events such as permaculture seminars and agroecology workshops and is the focus for a soil health committee with Univ. of Minnesota scientists. The study showed that the raised bed soils were very healthy with organic matter averaging 5.4 ± 1.3% in contrast to native soils at 2.0 ± 0.9%. Solvita CO2 levels for beds averaged 132 ppm ± 18. In contrast the native prairie/forest soil was 87 ppm ± 17 indicating that Bruce has improved his soil over the native condition. Read more
Mac Ehrhardt, Freeborn County, MN
Southern Minnesota soils are heavy with high organic content and aggressive sol tillage is a common practice. This has led to structural degradation and excessive N-mineralization. Albert Lea Seeds arranged to sample three soil landscapes on Le Suer, Webster and Lester soil series. Samples included prairie, old-growth forest, no-till and conventional plowed and cover-cropped.
Mac and Tom worked with local growers and Woods End labs to establish a testing program to include CO2-Burst, SLAN, bulk-density and water capacity. Read more
Chris Mehrle, Caruthersville, MO
“The soil tests impressed me with the amount of available nutrients and biological activity in my soils.”
One of the challenges to growers in the region is controlling Palmer amaranth. Chris was applying so many chemicals so many different times during the season that he felt it was imperative to do something different.
Chris observed that growing cover crops reduced weed pressure and significantly cut his herbicide bill. Also, he noted better water-infiltration and nutrient retention, less runoff, less erosion, and clearer streams.
He submitted three soil samples to Woods End Labs for a Soil Health Test. The Solvita burst test values all exceeded 130 ppm, rated high, even though organic matter levels were below 3%. Mehrle was impressed by the amount of N, P and K that was found available to the crop, so he could reduce his fertilizer bill, along with his herbicide costs. Read more
Ray Styer, Rockingham County, NC
Ray and his wife Sara have been farming the same piece of land since 1958. When he first took over the land, it has been mined from generations of tobacco farming. He runs a small cattle operation, grows silage corn, and hay. He has been no-till cover cropping since 1970!
After years of tending his soil, Ray wanted to see if the impact could be measured. Ray asked NRCS to arrange to have his
soils tested for Soil Health and Solvita by Woods End Labs. He wanted to see how his topsoil and subsoils were faring. He also had a few neighboring (conventional) soils tested. The Solvita CO2-Burst ranged from 57 ppm to 72 ppm. Ray’s subsoils were 18 and 22 ppm – better than the top-soils of neighboring farms at 9-16 ppm. Read more
Chris Teachout, Shenandoah, IA
“Using the Solvita results, I can experiment with building cover crops and measure improvements to soil health.”
Chris is a soil health aficionado and farms 1,800 acres in Shenandoah, Southwest Iowa. Teachout has incorporated cover-crops into his no-till operation. He has learned that adopting cover crops is about learning which species and combinations work best to improve soil health.
Chris wanted to know why his no-till soils planted to cover crops were more biologically active. He reached out to Woods End Laboratories to run Solvita and the Haney test. His next step is to build more diversity into his covers and discover which species work best in concert. He plans to chart his progress using Solvita. Read more
Dan Davidson, Stanton County, NE
“Solvita is an excellent tool to measure soil health. I routinely include it in soil evaluations and to monitor improvements on the farm.”
The Davidson family farm comprises more than 800 acres in Stanton County, Neb. The major crops are corn, soybeans, alfalfa and pasture. Conservation practices include no-till, crop rotation and planting covers when time allows. Application of gypsum, manures and compost is a common practice. Davidson, CCA, is an advocate of soil health, implementing strategies to improve it and routinely measuring it at the field level to document gains.
Dan has determined that an 80 acre field now has CO2 respiration values of from 80 to 90 ppm compared to a neighboring field that farmed more conventionally which has respiration values in the 40 to 60 ppm range. Over a decade, following his recipe, he has seen the productivity of this field double from 100 to 200 bu with less yield variability across the field and more resiliency to heat and drought stress. Read more
Brian Keehner, Farmersburg, IA
“Everything I had been told said the soil under the perennial would be better and it was. Solvita soil health tests showed distinct improvements.”
Brian is a young farmer in Dubuque County, Iowa. He has been farming for 4 years. He is focusing on corn and soybeans and wants to optimize his crop production and quality by focusing on the health of the soil. The cover crop showed him what is possible and he will continue planting cover crops, adding more diversity to his cocktail and interseed covers in standing corn at V4-V5. “NRCS suggested a Solvita test and I went on-line to find Woods End Laboratories, and I sent in my samples,” said Keehner. “I wanted to measure change in my soil and felt that Solvita provided that solution. 2015 was my first test and I wanted to learn.” Read more